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Rape Victim Was “Inviting” Sexual Assault With Provocative Dress, Flirting

Watch out, because I am going to throw things. A judge in Manitoba has ruled that a 2006 rape victim who was wearing a tube top, high heels, makeup and no bra was sending “mixed signals” that “sex was in the air” to her rapist, Kenneth Rhodes, who was merely insensitive to the fact the sex near a “darkened highway” was not consensual. “This is a case of misunderstood signals and inconsiderate behavior,” said Queen’s Bench Justice Robert Dewar, who called Rhodes a “clumsy Don Juan.” Let’s recap all the ways in which the woman who was raped by Kenneth Rhodes is not a “good victim” (that designation being mine, not the judge’s):

In 2006, Kenneth Rhodes and a friend met the woman, now 26, and her friend at a bar in Thompson, Manitoba. Both women wore tube tops, high heels, makeup and no bra. Bad Victim Rule #1: A slutty tube top, heels.and whore paint mean you’re asking for it.

The group then decided to go to a nearby lake, said Dewar, “notwithstanding the fact neither of them had a bathing suit.” Bad Victim Rule #2: Skinnydipping with strangers = consent. Duh.

As the foursome walked into the woods, Rhodes made “sexual advances” toward the victim, the Winnipeg Free Press said, which she initally rebuffed but eventually returned with kisses. Bad Victim Rule #3: Don’t kiss men on the same night you meet them. Especially not in the woods. You know what they say about people that go into the woods.

When Rhodes and the victim were alone, “he forced himself on her,” said the newspaper. As Rhodes’ laywer argued, he didn’t threaten her or use a weapon to rape her, but instead was “insensitive to the fact (she) was not a willing participant.” Bad Victim Rule #4: You have a better sob story that he hit you, held you down, threatened you, used a weapon against or, or did anything else “bad.” Because just raping you isn’t bad enough!

The prosecution had asked for three years behind bars. Instead, Judge Dewar sentenced him to two years “conditional sentencing”: one year under 24-hour curfew in which he can only leave home for work and medical appointments, and placing his name on the national sex offender registry, Rhodes was also ordered by the judge to write a letter of apology to the victim — who had told the court in a victim impact statement that she was afraid to leave her house since the rape and is “a prisoner in [her] own home.”

This is a classic date rape scenario that underscores the lack of understanding some people have about the nature of consent. While I can truly understand the judge’s attempt to be nuanced, his thought processes insofar as I understand them by the Winnipeg Press Press are classic in their old-fashioned victim blaming. Instead of putting the onus on the perpetrator to not abuse his or her position of power — because if Rhodes forced himself upon the victim, he took the power — the judge chalked his raping another human being up to confusion, thus absolving him of too much responsibility.

I’ll be the first to agree that consent sometimes isn’t clear-cut. But all human beings have the responsibility not to abuse others: to hurt them, harm the, take away their dignity. If Rhodes was DTF — down to f**k — and misunderstood the victim’s willingness, it’s his responsibility to make sure he is doing right by her rather than just taking what he wanted. The onus is on him to be clear he isn’t taking something that’s not being offered. (We don’t know from the article whether the victim said “no” or “stop” or physically pushed him away or anything to that effect; however, the description that he “forced himself upon her” is graphic enough for me.) Minimizing Rhodes’ abuse of power as being a “clumsy Don Juan” is a disservice to all women, but it sets the bar lower for men in a way I would find rather insulting if I had a dick between my legs.

The other elements — like her style of dress, her willingness to go to the lake without a bathing suit — that Judge Dewar considered when announcing “sex was in the air” all highlight the excuses society makes that make rapists less culpable for their behavior. I personally see where the judge is coming from in the sense that leaving a bar with strangers to go into the woods and presumably go skinny-dipping is not a safe decision this victim made. But she’s allowed to be an adventurous individual in society. Being dumb does not mean you deserve to get raped. Her being dumb didn’t do anything to hurt anybody; Rhodes’s being a “clumsy Don Juan” did.

Date rape has the perception it isn’t “rape rape” — thanks, Whoopi Goldberg! — exactly because of cases like this. It’s disheartening beyond words. [Winnipeg Free Press]

If you or someone you know has been raped or sexually abused, check out this piece “What To Do If You’ve Been Sexually Assaulted.”

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